In this edition:
- Festive Glamour: When the festive season throws you an occasion, you need to glam it up.
- Andrew McUtchen looks for fun in cricket with former Australian cricketer Damien Fleming.
- Take a look at our Christmas Gift Guide.
A homemade sign recalled from childhood was the inspiration for the name of this quaint inner-urban retreat. Va piano (go slowly) it warned speeding traffic on Nicholson Street.
So when Josh Napolitano opened his East Brunswick café on the same street three years ago, he adopted a variation and called it Piano Piano (slowly, slowly). The name matches the mood here: Napolitano is laid-back and relaxed, his café is unpretentious and theres strong use of recycled materials and respect for the past.
He grew up in Northcote and with sister Sassie began working in northern-suburbs cafés at a young age, in particular Brunswick Street Alimentari, owned by their aunt.
The site for Piano Piano, in a strip of shops across the road from the Triple R radio studio, had been a dowdy office. With the help of a friend, Napolitano refurbished and redesigned the space.
The menu, written on a paper roll behind the counter, defies natural food order and begins with burritos (with chipotle black beans and grilled corn salsa); there are pesto eggs with spinach, feta and grilled asparagus and a nonna melt with basil and tomato sugo on sourdough. Theres also a killer bircher muesli, loaded with nuts and seeds and topped with a splash of poached rhubarb.
Napolitano says organic, sustainable coffee from Richmond-based roaster Espresso Syndicate was a natural choice, aligning neatly with his respect for the environment. A lovingly extracted espresso from the two-group La Marzocco machine will be topped with a fine golden crema and hold juicy notes of ripe peach, caramel and cashews.
On her day off last week, Sassie Napolitano did some baking and made a soup some of it for herself and her husband, the rest for the café owned
by her brother. She shares the barista role with Josh and exudes natural warmth and friendliness from behind the counter.
Sassie ran her own design and homewares store, In The Woods, in Northcote for a while, and after acquiring a lovely coffee machine was unable to resist serving coffee. Its what she had known from years of working in local cafés.
She has been at Piano Piano for about a year, following her return from an overseas trip, and says the Syndicate coffee blend appeals to customers, who come from nearby art and design studios, businesses and residences.Piano Piano
126c Nicholson Street,
East BrunswickPhone None Barista Sassie Napolitano Coffee Espresso Syndicate Baristas choice Magic (double-ristretto flat white) Open Monday to Friday 7am-3pm; Saturday 8am-3pm
The traffic outside surges past, but inside the mood is more subdued.
Its a bit like being in nonnas kitchen. Honeyed tones of recycled timber, splashes of red in a curved benchtop and vinyl-padded stools add warmth, but antique radios and collectibles, an old TV and condiments lining the kitchen shelves bring character.
A box seat takes up the longest wall, magazines are scattered across the window bench and half-a-dozen well-spaced tables cut in interesting shapes fill the tiny room.
Perch on a box stool, gaze out the window or spread out something to read theres no rush.